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Changing QatarCulture, Citizenship, and Rapid Modernization$
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Geoff Harkness

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479889075

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479889075.001.0001

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Expats and Workers

Expats and Workers

Foreign Labor under Sponsorship

(p.190) 6 Expats and Workers
Changing Qatar

Geoff Harkness

NYU Press

This chapter examines foreign labor in Qatar from opposing ends of the employment spectrum. On one side are professional-class expatriates with terminal degrees from prestigious Western universities; on the other are low-wage migrants who toil six days per week in Qatar’s service and construction sectors. These groups are physically segregated from each other, and a number of institutional and cultural mechanisms symbolically isolate Qataris from expatriates. This stratification is illustrated through everything from residential zoning laws and hiring practices to homes and clothing. Both sets of workers are part of Qatar’s sponsorship labor system, which gives them limited protections from deportation should trouble arise. Professional-class expatriates develop interactive strategies that attempt physical or symbolic affinity with Qataris, seeking whatever residual benefits such proximity has to offer. Low-wage laborers from non-Western nations have fewer options. On their one day off per week, low-wage laborers are prohibited from entering shopping malls, among the few free public, air-conditioned spaces in a country where temperatures regularly exceed one hundred degrees. The negligent treatment of low-wage migrant workers contributed to a tragic incident at a Doha shopping mall that lays bare the disconnect between Qatari nationals and expatriates.

Keywords:   Qatar, labor, expatriates, work

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